Is HR too risk averse? Is it best practice to cross very ‘t’ and dot every ‘I’, mindful of potential employment claims? How strictly should HR police adherence to the legal rules? We are asking these questions in light of the CIPD’s latest podcast which was released last week – number 168: 'Nothing ventured nothing gained - is the profession too risk averse’? Host Nigel Cassidy asks whether the profession is too fixated on following the rules. It is a very good listen with an impressive panel which explores, for around half an hour, how HR can take well-calculated risks and seize opportunities. Do listen if you have time, especially if you are an HR Director because that’s really who it’s aimed at. We noticed they didn't have a lawyer on the podcast which explains why they didn’t cover an aspect of this debate which, we think, is an important one for HR, especially in large organisations. That’s' the issue of the extent to which HR should focus on legal risk and potential claims. In the spirit of the podcast, our view is there can be a problem, commercially, if HR is seen as the ‘Policy Police’ insisting everything is done to the letter. Result – procedures take a lot longer than they need to. This is something we have seen many time over many years and it led to us developing training for HR around this – an HR Masterclass called “A Bolder & Better Approach” which was devised by our Head of Client Training, Trish Embley. So what’s the thinking behind that title? I phoned Trish to find out:
Trish Embley: “We use the term "Bolder and Better HR" quite a lot within the Employment and Reward Team. What it means is we are encouraging all our clients to obviously be mindful of legal risk but almost to get it in proportion and to balance it against other commercial objectives. So if you looked at that say for example in the context of recruitment obviously it is our job to highlight legal risk in terms of discrimination claims and doing the right checks, pre-employment checks, immigration checks, data privacy issues, but also we try to focus on other commercial objectives like making sure you get the best candidate for the job which has to be the number one priority but also brand and reputation, so are we supporting our managers to understand that they are the first time that a candidate might encounter that organisation and they can actually do a lot of damage to brand in the way they conduct that interview. In fact reports have said that one in five candidates have fed back that they have stopped buying certain products as a result of a poor experience that they had on recruitment. So really it's about focusing on legal issues but also other commercial objectives as well and making sure that those don't get forgotten about if we just focus exclusively on legal risk."
Joe Glavina: “So can you give me an example, Trish. So if we take investigations - what does ‘bolder and better mean in that context?”
Trish Embley: "So bear in mind that for a reasonable investigation to be carried out it's just important that you explore the general line of the defence. So for example if we are talking about witnesses, you don't have to speak to absolutely everybody that the employee refers you to. There is a sort of filtering process that HR needs to do which is to say well what's relevant in this case? What is the evidence that needs to be available in order for the decision-maker to be able to make a fair decision? So in this case for example it wasn't necessary for the decision-maker to re-track every single journey that the individual had made. What was more important was that they could understand what his basic defence was and assess by reference to the evidence whether or not that was viable and that was perfectly possible for the decision-maker to do without having to go through the laborious process of phoning up the local authority, going through every single route over the past year and that's bound to be a good thing for everyone. I think what the tribunal was saying is that was an unnecessary gloss to put on the Burchell principles and remember investigations are stressful for the employee as well so it doesn't serve anybody for these things to be prolonged and drawn out while we drill down into unnecessary detail."
If that approach to training appeals to you – commercially focused, less risk averse - we would be happy to provide you with further details. Trish Embley’s contact details are on the screen there for you.